T20K Combo Shows Promise in MS Preclinical Studies

Patricia Inacio, PhD avatar

by Patricia Inacio, PhD |

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New preclinical data continues to support the potential of Cyxone’s investigational plant-derived peptide T20K for the treatment of multiple sclerosis (MS).

In a collaboration with its academic partner, the Medical University of Vienna, Cyxone has shown that a combination of T20K plus an activator of the kappa opioid receptor (kappa OR) has greater benefits than any treatment alone at preventing disease mechanisms in MS.

“We are very pleased that our collaboration with researchers at the Medical University of Vienna has generated additional data supporting the benefit of the T20K/kOR combination in a laboratory model,” Tara Heitner, CEO of Cyxone, said in a press release.

T20K is a plant-derived molecule that reduces inflammation by targeting interleukin-2, an inflammatory molecule involved in the destruction of myelin — a protective substance that wraps around nerve fibers to help them conduct electric impulses. Loss of myelin as a result of excessive inflammation in the brain and spinal cord is a hallmark of MS.

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Cyxone believes that T20K could be prescribed to patients immediately or shortly after diagnosis to reduce or prevent MS episodes, possibly delaying disease progression. In a previous Phase 1 clinical trial involving eight healthy men, a low dose of T20K was found safe and well-tolerated, with no serious adverse events.

Increasing evidence suggests that targeting kappa OR also may help inhibit MS progression by inducing myelin regeneration. Activation of kappa OR by agonists — effectively, a molecule that mimics the receptor’s natural ligand — also exerts immunosuppressive and anti-inflammatory activities.

The new findings support the potential of T20K, used in combination with a kappa OR agonist, for the treatment of early and late stages of MS.

Moreover, they support the company’s patent application, “Cyclotides in combination with kappa opioid receptor ligands for MS therapy,” submitted in early 2020.

In the immediate future, researchers at the Medical University of Vienna will continue to examine T20K as a single agent for the treatment of MS, but the combination therapy may be explored further in future studies.

“Our current focus will remain on T20K as a monotherapy in MS,” said Christian Gruber, PhD, leader of the research and one of the patent applicants.

“However, going forward we may also seek to harness T20K in combination with known opioid drugs and thereby utilize its immunosuppressive effects,” he added. “This may be beneficial to reduce flares and progression of MS and introduces the possibility of remyelination.”

The new preclinical data open “the possibility to treat a larger group of MS patients in the future and to address a wider range of complications and symptoms which arise due to the disease. Such opportunities could substantially increase the value for both patients and healthcare systems,” said Heitner.

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